Monday 26 September 2016

Steven Donnelly becomes fourth Irish boxer to qualify for Rio Olympics

Sean McGoldrick

Published 02/12/2015 | 11:18

Steven Donnelly, left, has become the fourth Irish boxer to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Steven Donnelly, left, has become the fourth Irish boxer to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Ballymena welterweight Steven Donnelly has become the fourth Irish boxer to qualify for the Rio Olympics next August.

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The Olympic Council of Ireland has confirmed to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association that Donnelly has secured a place in the 69kg category at the 31st Olympiad.

“We are absolutely delighted for Steven and for his club. Steven performed magnificently last season and he won his place on merit,” said IABA President Pat Ryan.  IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth confirmed that they have received confirmation that Donnelly has been offered a quota place for the Olympics. “This is fantastic news for our sport,” said Carruth.

Donnelly now joins his fellow Ulster boxers, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes together with Joe Ward as confirmed participants in the Rio Games.

Donnelly took a somewhat circuitous route on the journey to secure his spot in Rio.  He competed in the World Boxing Series for the Polish based Hussars franchise last spring.

He won five of his six bouts and would have almost certainly finished higher than fourth in the rankings but for the fact that he couldn’t take part in one of his scheduled fights due to a visa mix-up.

The top two rated boxers in the series earned automatic qualifying for Rio but then fate earned the Irishman an unexpected reprieve. 

The number one ranked welterweight in the WSB series Mohammed Rabii from Morocco won the gold medal at the World championships which earned him a place in Rio. So like Ireland’s Michael Conlan Rabii had effectively qualified twice for Rio.

The AIBA, the governing body of world boxing, ruled that boxers who qualified for Rio at the World championships had to take up that slot which effectively moved Donnelly up to third place in the WSB rankings.

Then in another twist two Russian boxers qualified in the welterweight category for Rio, Radzhab Butaev, who finished second In the WSB series, and Andrey Zamkovoy – who qualified for Rio via the new AIBA Pro series.

Each country is only allowed one boxer per weight division and the Russian pair boxed off at the Russian championships in Samara last Sunday. As expected, Zamkovoy – who beat Ireland’s Adam Nolan on his way to winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics – won the bout.

This result effectively cleared the way for Donnelly to be promoted to second in the WSB rankings and earn his place in Rio.

Nine further Olympic places – six for men and three for women – will be up for grabs at the various qualifying tournaments in 2016. Ireland qualified six boxers for the London Olympics in 2012.

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